MINERAL WELLS —
By TONY EIERDAM
Mineral Wells Lady Rams, Rams and fans of the two basketball teams have marked today on their calendars for the past few weeks – the day Springtown’s basketball teams visit the MWHS gym.
The Lady Rams and Lady Porcupines will tip it off at 6:30 p.m., while the Rams/Porcupines contest is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.
Both the Lady Rams and Rams are not only seeking revenge from losses incurred Jan. 15 at Springtown, but also, with a win, each team can climb into second place in the District 6-3A standings.
When the teams met in Springtown earlier last month, both the Lady Rams and Rams felt they did not play their best games, and both seemed out of sync.
Springtown’s large and vocal crowd also may have rattled the two squads, and coaches for both MWHS teams are anticipating not only the largest student turnout today, but also the largest crowd the gym has seen this season.
It will also be “red out” night as students and fans are encouraged to wear red to support the MWHS teams.
In the first meeting, Springtown defeated the Lady Rams, 60-44. In a very physical game – the style of play the Springtown ladies have the reputation of playing – officials whistled Lady Rams’ leading scorer Sydney Shelstead for four quick fouls.
In Shelstead’s absence, the Lady Porcupines outscored the Lady Rams 21-2, which was the difference in the game.
“It benefitted Springtown to turn it into a physical contest,” Lady Rams head coach Ed Shelstead said. “They knew if they got Sydney or Niya (Benavides) in foul trouble that it would get two bullets out of our gun and take us out of their rhythm.
“They made us play their style of game. (Today), we want to dictate the style of play.”
To do that, the coach said the team just has to play within itself and play its style of game. Shelstead also said a huge reason for the earlier loss was shooting.
The Lady Rams hit just seven shots from the field, and shot an un-Lady-Ram-like 69 percent from the free throw line.
“I expect Springtown to play their same physical style, but I expect a different game from us,” Shelstead said. “We simply have to execute and do what we are supposed to do. We gave them that game last month.
“When we played at Springtown we did some things that hurt us, but mainly we got into foul trouble. Hopefully, we can stay out of foul trouble (today). I think since we are at home we will be relaxed, and we have no mysteries now on what it is going to be like to play them.
“We should be able to come out and execute right away and play the kind of basketball we are capable of playing. This is a big game for us. We want to finish in second place, and a win (today) will give us a shot at finishing in second place.
“We will be ready to play, and we will play our type of game.”
In the Rams’ loss at Springtown, the MWHS boys were cold from the field and the free throw line.
The Rams were 11 for 23 from the charity stripe and worse from the field. They also committed more than their game average of turnovers.
“Free throw shooting cost us the game,” Rams head coach Aaron Pappas said. “We also put ourselves in a hole in that game when we played poorly on defense in the first half (Springtown went on a 21-8 run in the second quarter).
“Lately, we have shot better from the field and the line.”
Pappas said the Rams need the win to help secure second place, which would mean facing a third-place team from District 5-3A. Wichita Falls Hirschi is in first place in 5-3A (first-place teams draw a bye), with Burkburnett, which beat the Rams 85-54, in second place.
“This is a big game,” Pappas said. “If we can win this game and earn a split with Springtown, and everything else falls the way it has been, we would be tied for second at the end of district.
“We could play a tiebreaker game, or we could flip a coin for second and third. Not sure that we would want to play another game and risk injury right before the playoffs.
“But we feel we need to be in second place, so we have to win (today), and assuming that we beat the rest of the teams in district that we beat in the first half of district play.
“If we can finish second, we have a lot better chance of beating a third-place team in the first round of the playoffs. If we finish in third place, we would have to play Burkburnett in the first round, and you saw what they did to us earlier in the year. They had their way with us.
“(Today) is a big game, no doubt.”
The Porcupines hurt the Rams with outside shooting in the last meeting. Pappas said the team has worked on perimeter defense in practice this week.
“We gave up too many three pointers the last time we played them,” Pappas said. “(Springtown guard) Dalton Scott hit five threes on us, and we weren’t expecting that.
“We have to play better defense a the three-point line, and we got to do a better job of keeping a body on (post) Thomas Loving, who kind of had his way with us. We need to do a better job of keeping him off the boards.
“We will be playing at home, and we expect the biggest crowd of the year, so hopefully we can get some early momentum. We want to jump out fast so we can get the crowd into it.”